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Barkwood Forest Dog Park. Photos: Boogity Dog Walking.

Barkwood Forest gives residents an off-leash dog walking paradise

By Bruce Burwell on August 14, 2019

If you designed a place to walk your dog, what would it be like? Would it be like the Bruce Pit? Or would it be totally fenced in, just in case they ran off? Would there be lots of other friendly dogs (and humans) there to socialize with? Many kilometers of forested trails? A place to wash off muddy paws before getting back in the car?

Barkwood Forest might well be that paw-fect (sorry!) place you’d design for your furry friend. Barkwood is the home of Boogity Dog Walking, which picks up dogs around Ottawa’s west end neighbourhoods on weekdays and walks them off-leash in the forest.

“We have 40 (members) right now and at 40 I’m seeing maybe two people at a time here, which isn’t enough. We want more people for the social experience.”

Barkwood, however, has recently diversified to allow private members to come walk their pooches. For a monthly subscription of $60 you can walk the trails on weekdays before 9:30 a.m. and after 3:30 p.m. and anytime on weekends. Dogs are screened for their sociability prior to being allowed to join the park.

Apartment613 was let off-leash to visit the trails of Barkwood Forest to talk to owner Kevin Johnstone. Johnstone left an IT job earlier this year to become the Barkwood Forest Manager.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: Did you always bring the dogs here to walk?

Kevin Johnstone: When we started out she [Heidi Johnstone, Kevin’s wife] did what we affectionately called “street walking” for over a year. But the goal was always to walk dogs off-leash. Problem is, in Ottawa the by-law is two dogs per person. So you can’t walk a dog pack in the public dog parks. I’m always the cross the t’s dot the i’s person. And I knew our insurance is not going to cover us if we were breaking a law. We originally found a farmer in Dunrobin who had a hundred acre tree farm and we convinced him to let us walk the dogs in and around the trees.

We were there for four years. And then, nearing the end, the farmer thought it was such a good idea that he started bringing other dog walking companies in as well. And those companies didn’t screen for socialization. So we decided this wasn’t working for us. We’ve got to find our own private place. So I literally just drove around rural areas of Kanata and Stittsville looking for properties for sale. So that’s how we ended up here. And we don’t own this yet, we’re still leasing it. We love the feeling of being able to go and walk and know that all the dogs you’re going to see are social. And we figured that there would be other people that were interested in that as well.

How many members do you have now?

We have 40 right now and at 40 I’m seeing maybe two people at a time here, which isn’t enough. We want more people for the social experience. But it’s only two months that we’ve been open.

What causes you more problems? The dogs or their owners?

I don’t think either of them cause us problems. I mean, the dogs are all wonderful. That’s why I wanted to be part of this business. In my IT job I was always dealing with problems. I worked in IT staffing specifically, and people are often not happy in that realm. But we’ve run this business for 10 years and our clients are all really happy pretty much all the time. And the dogs are living their best life out here.

Barkwood Forest is located in the Stittsville area south of Highway 7. Sometime in the fall Barkwood will be allowing private members to walk their dogs at any time of the day.